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Genetic Genealogy in Iceland

Yesterday Science published a report from deCODE genetics in Iceland and a second report from academic colleagues in the United States and Canada that announced the discovery of a gene variant (a SNP) on chromosome 9p21 that results in an increased risk of heart attack (the abstracts are available online here and here). The SNP was discovered through genome-wide SNP analysis in Iceland and replicated in three groups of European descent in the United States. I don’t have access to either paper, but according to deCODE’s press release the variant is estimated to account for 20% of the incidence of heart attacks in Europeans, including one-third of early-onset cases (men and women age 50 to 60). Both companies used SNP Chips (that’s fun to say outloud), tiny gene chips that contain thousands and thousands of SNPs across the entire genome. Want to learn more about SNPs? Go to the SNP information page at the Human Genome Project.

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Learn More About DNA and Genetic Genealogy at Roots Television

Last week I posted Ten Videos for Genetic Genealogists, a collection of YouTube and other videos that might be of use to people who are just starting out in the field of genetic genealogy (and hopefully many others!).

Another valuable (and ever-growing) resource for genetic genealogists (indeed, for ALL genealogists, is Roots TelevisionTM.  Roots Television is an online media presentation website created by historian Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and media producer Marcy Brown.  The site offers a wide variety of programming on such topics as genetic genealogy, Irish roots, and African roots, as well as recordings of presentations by some of the world’s leading genealogists (to name only a few).

Roots TelevisionTM introduces themselves with the following:

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Podcast Interview with the CEO of AncestryByDNA

Update: The podcast was updated to add the last 5 minutes of the interview (after the commercial break).  As a result, the link to the podcast changed.  I apologize to everyone who tried the old link – it should work fine now.

Market News First, a website dedicated to microcap markets, recently interviewed the CEO of DNAPrint Genomics, Inc.”Richard Gabriel, President and CEO of DNAPrint Genomics, Inc. spoke with MN1.com’s Rich Hancock on April 26th, 2007 about the Company’s innovative and cutting edge technology that aids law enforcement crime scene investigation (CSI) forensics, consumer applications in genealogy ancestry/genetic testing and its pharmaceutical and diagnostic applications. Mr. Gabriel highlights the Company’s recent advances in its pharmaceutical and diagnostic, and talks about its successes in both law enforcement and the growth market of DNAPrint’s consumer oriented products.”

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GINA: A Primer

dnaa.jpg1.Who is GINA?
GINA isn’t a ‘who’, it’s a ‘what’.GINA stands for Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.

2.Okay, what is the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act?
GINA aims to protect individuals in a variety of different areas.The legislation would prohibit access to genetic information by insurance companies and would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against an applicant based on genetic information, the refusal to submit genetic information, or for have been genetically tested in the past.Additionally, the Act would prohibit employers from using or collecting genetic information to make employment decisions. The Act also establishes a Genetic Nondiscrimination Study Commission that is charged with reviewing new developments in the field of genetics and advising Congress.

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DNA Day

dnadaybanner2007.jpgI was unaware that today is actually DNA day.  Learn more here.

“National DNA Day is a unique day where students, teachers and the public can learn more about genetics and genomics! It was created to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003, and the discovery of DNA’s double helix.

Students and teachers nationwide can celebrate DNA Day and learn more about genetics and genomics through the National DNA Day activities available on these pages. NHGRI offers an online chatroom, a library of webcasts featuring genomic researchers, interactive teaching tools and an opportunity through our Ambassador program to invite a real-life genomic researcher to talk to your students.”

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Is Genetic Genealogy A Scam?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I am a strong proponent of genetic testing for genealogical purposes.I believe that when used correctly genetic testing can serve as a valuable tool in the genealogist’s toolbox.

A recent visitor found my blog with the search term “is genetic genealogy a scam?”When I recreated the search, I discovered that a previous post on this blog is the leading link for this search. The process made me think about the many people who are skeptical or wary of genetic genealogy.As a scientist, I appreciate and encourage healthy skepticism.After all, genetic genealogy has been available for less than a decade, and it has changed considerably since it was first offered.I believe that anyone who forays into the world of genetic genealogy should have a basic understanding of the science and the application of the results.Just reading about genetic genealogy in the media can give one a distorted view of the technology.Along this point, I recommend reading an interesting article by Rebecca Skloot (author of the upcoming book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which I can’t wait to read).I was referred to that article by a post on her blog (Culture Dish) entitled “The Bogus-ness of DNA Testing for Genealogy Research” in which she reiterates the point that genetic genealogy tests “simply can’t tell you anything definitive about your heredity unless you’re testing your DNA and comparing it to someone else’s to find out if you’re related.”

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Genetic Genealogy in the news

This article is appearing in newspapers across the country (In the Rocky Mountain News [Thanks to Tim] and USA Today [Thanks to Megan]).  Martin Marshall never believed that his father was actually his biological father, and testing has shown that he is not related to at least one of his brothers.  Marshall then underwent Y-DNA testing in the hope of learning more about his father’s lineage.

“Marshall logged into an Internet database. He entered his DNA profile, and was astounded to find that virtually every person who closely resembled him genetically was named Sizemore.”

To date, Marshall does not know who his father was, but he is hoping that eventually the mystery will be solved.

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Ten Videos for Genetic Genealogists

Want to know more about DNA, DNA replication, and mutations?Here are few videos that I thought might be helpful.Seeing a 3D animation of a biological process can be even more informative than reading about it.

1. DNA Structure I

2. DNA Structure II (a little more technical)

3. DNA Replication

4. PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction

5. DNA Mutation

6. Genetic Diversity

7. SNPs

8. Haplotypes

9. Mitochondrial DNA Inheritance

10. Mitochondrial Eve:
Click here to view.

And finally, because it’s just too cool not to include:
11. The Inner Workings of the Cell

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Faces of Britain

face.jpg

In 2005 the Wellcome Trust established a £2.3 million project (roughly 4.5 million USD) at the University Oxford to examine the genetic makeup of the United Kingdom.The project would be led by the renowned geneticist and Oxford Professor Sir Walter Bodmer, joined by Oxford Professor Peter Donnelly (a population genetics and statistics expert) and the Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow Professor Lon Cardon.

The goal of the project is to establish a knowledge base for analyzing genes that are linked to disease.To do this, the researchers hoped to gather DNA from 3000 to 3500 volunteers throughout the UK who live in the same area as their parents and grandparents.Each volunteer’s DNA will be tested for 2000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).The data will be combined with each volunteer’s medical history in the attempt to find a link between genetic make-up and the inheritability or susceptibility of a number of diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.The data will also be used to isolate DNA sequences that characterize the founders of each region of the UK, be they Viking, Saxon, or Celt.

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African American Lives 2

Yesterday the producers of last year’s popular PBS series “African American Lives” and “Oprah’s Roots” announced that they are seeking applications from people who are interested in participating in “African American Lives 2.”The producers plan to air the program in February 2008, and it will once again be hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr.One lucky participant will have their genealogy mapped through a combination of traditional genealogical research and DNA analysis.You can read the full press release here.

Note that applications must be submitted by submitted by 6:00 PM on Friday, May 4, so if you believe that you have “discernible (or at least anecdotal) African ancestry”, as the FAQ section states, you should apply immediately.This type of dedicated research is undoubtedly worth thousands of dollars and could be an amazing opportunity.

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